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JewishJournal.com

March 5, 1998

Dear Deborah

http://www.jewishjournal.com/old_stories/article/dear_deborah_19980306

Dear Deborah,

My girlfriend of three months, some friends, one of her employees and I went out to dinner the other night. This employee is a friend of my girlfriend's, and they socialize frequently. The problem I have with this employee-friend is that sheis competitive and always publicly puts down my girlfriend, whodoesn't seem to notice or care. When I point it out, she dismisses it and says that the employee-friend has a good heart, is loyal andindispensable to her business. My girlfriend has asked me to keep my opinions about her friend to myself, and she thinks I am simply jealous of their closeness. I do not think this is true at all. I don't feel jealous; I just don't like this woman, because she doesn'ttreat my girlfriend right -- as an employee or as a friend.

I have kept my mouth shut, but I think that the employee-friend went overboard the other night. While my girlfriend went to the ladies' room, I believe that her so-called friend hit on me. She touched my leg, said that it was too bad I was "taken," and asked me to have a drink with her some time. I was speechless and just brushed off the comment.

My dilemma is whether or not to tell my girlfriend. On the one hand, she's asked me not to discuss this woman, and I am afraid of losing my girlfriend. On the other hand, I feel protective of her and believe that she ought to know the truth.Please advise.

H.

Dear H.,

What is with the gag rule? If you are afraid oflosing your girlfriend by telling her what happened with heremployee-friend, then be certain that in order to continue thisrelationship, you are signing up for a future bound by the fear ofspeaking your mind -- and always feeling more dispensable than heremployee.

Is that OK with you? Because whether or not shelikes you, if you do not like who you become when you are with her,the relationship won't fly far.

Trauma Revisited

Dear Deborah,

A friend, "Mary," who lives far from me, asked ifI would befriend a widow friend of hers, "Sue," who was moving to anapartment right in the area I live in; she was alone now and lonely.Mary asked me to show Sue various areas so that she could drive tothem for shopping, doctor visits, et al. I agreed to do so.

But meeting Sue brought back a flood of unpleasantmemories for me. I was horrified to see that she looked virtuallylike a twin to this unpleasant, obnoxious, mentally ill neighbor Ihad when I lived back East 15 years ago.

Out of the goodness of my heart, I showed Suearound, and she was grateful. Now, she keeps calling me, asking me tojoin her for lunch or a movie, and I have to keep making excuses thatI am busy and have little time. But she is persistent and doesn'twant to take "no" for an answer.

Now, Deborah, I really want to make a clean break.Although she is a nice woman, I can't face looking at her and thememories of that awful neighbor. Can you suggest how I can handlethis so that I can make a graceful, clean break?

X.

Dear X.,

The ideal, of course, is to realize that as achild, you did not understand the concept of mental illness, so theneighbor was perceived as "obnoxious" or even evil. To be able toextract the trauma from the memory by donning adult lenses mightneutralize the memory and free you to form a new friendship withSue.

But, of course, life is usually not so simple. Ifyou can't do it, you can't do it. So why not tell her the truth?Either she'll be hurt or she won't. Anyway, after hearing yourreasons for not wanting to befriend her, she herself may lose hereagerness for your company.

Kosher Bind

Dear Deborah,

I have been married eight years to a wonderfulman. We have a 4-year-old daughter and had hoped to have anotherchild soon. What is stopping me is that my husband has been graduallybecoming more and more religious and demanding that I go there withhim.

When we got together, we were at the same level ofobservance and belief. Now, he wants our home to be kosher and tobecome Sabbath-observant. I had always enjoyed the traditions of ourreligion; however, I don't believe these changes would be true tomyself. I don't mind kosher so much, but the Shabbat observance woulddrive me crazy. I don't believe I could do it.

I am sick with worry about what will become of us,but my husband is becoming more and more inflexible about his beliefsand about what I should become if I "really loved him." Pleasehelp.

S.

Dear S.,

Sounds like your marriage is about to take itsfirst and, with hope, not its last trip to the abyss. Some people maycomfortably take on observance for the sake of another with orwithout the requisite belief system. For example, you stated that youwouldn't mind being kosher for the sake of holding on to your"wonderful" husband.

If, however, you take on practices that will makeyou resentful, then your marriage will eventually suffer from abuildup of bitterness -- a great killer of marital contentment. It iscrucial that the two of you resolve this now, and that you both knowthat you stand at the abyss. Understand what not resolving this willmean. And get the necessary help to arrive at a resolution, whetherit's with a mutually agreed upon rabbi or a therapist.

Forcing another into any behavior may constitute ashort-term win; however, for a marriage to go the distance, bothspouses must feel that the compromises aren't always coming from thesame side of the mechitza.


Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist. All letters toDear Deborahrequire a name, address and telephone number for purposes ofverification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Ourreaders should know that when names are used in a letter, they arefictitious.

Dear Deborah welcomes your letters. Responses canbe given only in the newspaper. Send letters to Deborah Berger-Reiss,1800 S. Robertson Blvd., Ste. 927, Los Angeles, CA 90035. You canalso send E-mail: deborahb@primenet.com


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